California Court of Appeal Finds Amazon Is Not Shielded from Liability for Defective Product Sold Through Its Website

In a decision that may impact future e-commerce, the California Court of Appeal held in Bolger v. Amazon.com, LLC that under California law, Amazon could be strictly liable for an allegedly defective battery manufactured by a third-party and sold on its website.  The Court further found Amazon was not immune from liability under the Communications Decency Act.  The Court reversed the trial court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Amazon.

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Preemption of Structure/Function Claims

Seen frequently on grocery items, and especially on dietary supplements, structure/function claims describe the role of a nutrient or ingredient in the structure or function of the human body. Examples include “Calcium builds strong bones,” “St. John’s Wort supports mood,” and “Vitamin E supports the immune system.”

The FDA defines and regulates structure/function claims, and FDA requirements generally preempt state-law requirements that are “not identical.” 21 U.S.C. § 343-1(a)(5). So, does compliance with FDA regulations for structure/function claims shield food and supplement manufacturers from lawsuits claiming their structure/function claims are false and misleading?

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PREP Act Does Not Require Federal Forum for State Law Negligence Claims Related to COVID-19

A New Jersey District Court Judge has ruled that the March 2020 federal liability immunity statute for pandemic-related countermeasures does not create a basis for federal jurisdiction, resulting in the remand of two COVID-19-related personal injury actions.

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Certain Express Misrepresentation Consumer Fraud Act Claims and Product Liability Claims May Coexist According to NJ Supreme Court

In the case on certification from the Third Circuit, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that claims for express or affirmative misrepresentations under New Jersey’s Consumer Fraud Act (NJCFA) may be brought simultaneously with claims under the New Jersey Product Liability Act (NJPLA).

In Sun Chemical Corp. v. Fike Corp., plaintiff Sun Chemical Corporation purchased an explosion suppression system from defendant Fike Corporation. The system was to prevent and contain potential explosions in a new dust collection system. On the system’s first day of operation, a fire occurred, and the system’s alarm was activated but inaudible, resulting in an explosion that injured Sun Chemical employees and damaged its facility.

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“Vanilla” Ice Cream Deceptive Labeling Case Melts on Motion to Dismiss

A federal court in New York recently granted a motion to dismiss claims that ice cream labeled “vanilla” misleads consumers into believing the product’s flavor comes exclusively from vanilla beans or extract, when in fact other natural flavors contribute to the vanilla taste. The decision may be a harbinger of what is to come in similar cases challenging the label description of vanilla and other flavors in products ranging from ice cream to soy milk to energy drinks. The decision also shows that alleged regulatory violations and product testing do not necessarily support a plausible claim of consumer deception.

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Preparing for the COVID-19 Immunity Preemption Defense

As manufacturers of vaccines, pharmaceutical medicines, ventilators and respirators engage substantial resources and ramp up production to help fight COVID-19, many have presumably done so under the immunity protections afforded by the federal Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act (the PREP Act codified at 42 USC §247d-6d), and Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (the CARES Act). Because of industry-wide uncertainty surrounding PREP Act immunity and the need for immediate and urgent action on the part of manufacturers, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently issued a non-binding Advisory Opinion explaining the scope of PREP Act coverage, its immunity provisions in the context of COVID-19 countermeasures, and informal guidance on the preemptive effect of the federal law.

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